I am absolutely amazed at the friendships that start and flourish on the internet. The people that I talk with on a daily basis I feel an incredible closeness to.

I am floored by the generosity of those that I have met online. I have seen someone post “I hate to do this, but can someone lend me $30 so I can get enough gas to get to work this week. I will totally hit you back” and will see a list of people ready and willing to pay it forward. It is amazing the amount of generous people looking to help people in need.

However, there are some times when you are not necessarily sure where your gift is going. What happens if someone says “I need $320 for a new part for my car” but is using it for something else. Did they lie? Was “part for my car” their way of getting money to pay off their bar tab? Are you being conned?

With internet anonymity, you can’t always trust the old adage “what you see is what you get”. The person that you have gotten to know and have invested time and honesty into might be a completely different person playing a role.

So how do you decipher what is true and what is false?

It pains me to admit, but I don’t know. I have racked my brain for quite some time with this predicament. There are people on Twitter begging for a RT from someone famous linking to a “charity”, but how do we know if the link is genuine?

Sadly there are people that will take advantage of the kindness of others. It is inevitable. Once you feel that you have been duped, how can you be sure that anything you want to do in the future is on the up and up?

I know this is a completely depressing post, but I just don’t know. I have no idea what advice I can give to those who have been burned. It’s happened to me in the past and has definitely affected my desire to donate to certain things. Money complicates everything. Loaning a friend some money then watching them spend frivolously without paying you back is one of the worst things to go through.

The only shining light in loaning/donating via the internet is that you can keep record of what you have given and if something doesn’t add up, you have proof of fraud. If you are extending a helping hand to someone, I suggest including someone else in the correspondence so that it is not the case of my word versus their word.

Please be vigilant. Some things to keep mind of.

1. If someone doesn’t publicly thank you for giving them something, they might be getting things from other people. Sometimes even though people are getting things from you, they might be getting money or gifts from others. They don’t publicly acknowledge because they don’t want the well to run dry. If they send you a thank you privately, save that in a special folder marked “Just in Case”.

2. Be wary of shifting stories. If someone is telling you about their life and it seems different from what you remember, make note of it. Jot a quick email to yourself or something (perhaps in a folder marked “Just in Case”). That way if the story changes again you can recognize that you are being fed a partial truth if not a complete fabrication.

3. If someone is still paying for entertainment (cable / internet / smart phone / Netflix / GameFly / World of Warcraft), they obviously have money to pay for those things.

I posted this to my site, but I think that this is something that everyone should keep an eye on. #paranoia #hashtaggingoutsideoftwitter